University Groups Hold Various Complementary Graduation Ceremonies at ALANA Cultural Center


While all members of the Class of 2023 will officially graduate at the Commencement Ceremony on May 21, campus departments have organized special graduation ceremonies to acknowledge and commemorate the accomplishments of some Colgate University seniors.

Haven’s Teal Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, April 25 honored seniors who are survivors of sexual assault. The next day, LGBTQ+ Initiatives’ Lavender Graduation Ceremony celebrated LGBTIQA+ graduates and allies. Director of ALANA Cultural Center Esther Rosbrook also announced that ALANA will sponsor a Multicultural Graduation in the Hall of Presidents on May 20 to celebrate the experiences and achievements of the diverse graduating class. 

Haven Assistant Director Michele Passonno further explained the origin of the Teal Graduation.

“Teal Graduation was brought to this campus to show support for survivors and their importance on Colgate’s campus,” Passonno said.

The ceremony, which took place in the ALANA Cultural Center, opened with an introduction by Charm Little-Ray, associate director of survivor support services, who previewed the order of the event. Director of Sexual Violence Support Dawn LaFrance then delivered remarks on the achievements of Haven over its six years of existence at Colgate. LaFrance noted that the survivors present had overcome unique obstacles to be able to graduate from Colgate and wished to use her speech to recognize this accomplishment. 

“I want to take a moment to acknowledge what it takes to be a survivor and also go to school at Colgate. Colgate is a really hard school: academically, socially, in a lot of different ways. You get a lot out of being here, and you graduate with a lot of great things. But if you are somebody who has been affected by trauma, remembering that trauma comes in many different forms, college life can be much more difficult,” LaFrance said. “I want to acknowledge that graduation means different things to different people, and for those who have been through really tough things in order to get there, I want to celebrate that journey and express how exciting that is.”

Passonno ended the ceremony by honoring specific members of organizations at Colgate who have been particularly valuable to Haven this year with special awards and certificates.

Haven also provided every senior with gift boxes containing teal honor cords. LaFrance explained to guests how the teal cords symbolized the unique accomplishments of their time at Colgate.

“We welcome you to take a cord with you. You can wear [it] to graduation if you want to, but you don’t have to; you can hang it somewhere, you can wear it around your room, whatever you want to do with it, but it really just recognizes what it takes in order to get to this point in your career,” LaFrance explained. “It’s just a token of our love and support for you all.”

Although lavender graduations are a nationwide annual tradition, the special theme of this year’s Lavender Graduation ceremony at Colgate was “With Pride We Thrive,” coinciding with the 20th anniversaries of the establishment of the Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives and its on-campus queer safe space Rainbow Room. Director of LGBTQ+ Initiatives Lyosha Gorshkov explained the meaning behind the ceremony’s theme. 

“For me, it means that we always have to carry that sense of pride regardless [of] where we are. Because when we are authentic ourselves, when we acknowledge ourselves with pride, and when we thrive, the community thrives,” Gorshkov said. “Plus, recognizing that there’s so many of us, before and after. You have to continue, to have to keep the thread.”

Piecing together articles, posters and notes from Colgate archives and from past editions of The Colgate Maroon-News, Gorshkov’s remarks during the ceremony traced the extensive history of queer life at Colgate. Gorshkov invited Nancy Goldstein ’80, one of the co-founders of Colgate’s first gay organization in 1978, to participate in the Lavender Graduation via Zoom. Goldstein said she thought that the Lavender Graduation was an excellent representation of the social progress made at the University since she graduated.

“More than anything, I’m so moved to just be at the graduation. I can’t even believe that Colgate has something like this,” Goldstein said. “It really makes me thrilled to see the progress that’s been made […] I think it’s a beautiful thing that you have this special graduation and a community of people to treasure it. You’re really lucky to have this kind of community.”

Gorshkov also invited Karen Fuller, a representative of the LGBTQ+ youth safe space Q Center in Syracuse, to speak at the ceremony. Noting that the fact that LGBTQ individuals like those at the Lavender Graduation even made it through college is a remarkable achievement in itself, her remarks echoed those of LaFrance to Teal Graduation guests. 

Gorshkov also distributed several awards and plaques to specific members or organizations at Colgate who have made a great impact in queer activism and allyship over the past year. All guests could also pick up rainbow honor cords and lavender stoles that can be worn at the official commencement ceremony in May. 

Wrapping up the ceremony, Gorshkov added that a symbolic event like Lavender Graduation ultimately has a real, tangible impact on members of the LGBTQ+ community, helping them feel accepted and comfortable at Colgate.

“This ceremony recognizes LGBTQ+ students who graduate in order for them to embrace their identities,” Gorshkov said. “It’s very important to have our own event to be able to get together as a community and to use that celebratory moment to acknowledge our existence, acknowledge that we are seen and we are a small but mighty community.”